The Seven Deadly Sins of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

Keith Martin-SmithBuddha In Therapy, Cognitive, Emotional, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Moral, Politics, Video, World Affairs 1 Comment



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Join Keith Martin-Smith as he questions whether DEI initiatives are achieving their intended goals of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Instead of moving in that direction, are they further perpetuating any number of unseen biases? Is the narrative around privilege and diversity not only too simple, but working against a stated desire for cultural equity?
 
Keith questions many DEI assumptions, with loads of data, such as how other facets of privilege like class and education level impact our understanding of police violence, who is really being oppressed, and many other nuances.  He asks, and answers, how we might rethink and reshape the DEI discourse, moving towards more skillful, more honest, (and more integral) approaches.
 
Hard-hitting and direct, Keith cites 7 places where DEI, while partially true, is moving into problematic application because of the places it’s also partially false – and seemingly blind to that. His 7 sins are: 1.) Simplified Understanding of Privilege (included in the free preview) 2. Narrow Perspective on Diversity 3. Intolerance 4. Equal Outcomes Lead to Biased Policies 5. Excessive Focus on Oppression and Power 6. Tribalism 7. Anti-liberalism
 
We hope you can join this important conversation, which will be the foundation for upcoming talks around how DEI can be improved.

Images and maps by Corey deVos


Sin #1: Simplistic View of Privilege

The first sin discussed is the simplistic view of privilege, which reduces complex social dynamics to binary categories of oppressed and oppressor, often based solely on visible identity markers like race and gender. This perspective neglects the multifaceted nature of privilege, which can encompass factors like socioeconomic status, education, and geographic location, leading to an incomplete understanding of how privilege operates in society.
To address this sin, the solution proposed involves broadening the conversation around privilege to include its more nuanced aspects. This means acknowledging the complexity and intersectionality of human experiences, where privilege and disadvantage can coexist within individuals and communities. Encouraging deeper, more empathetic discussions that recognize the full spectrum of privilege can lead to more informed, effective DEI strategies that truly address inequality.

 

Sin #2: Limited View of Diversity

The second sin highlights a limited view of diversity that focuses predominantly on physical or cultural differences, overlooking the rich diversity of thought, experience, and perspective. This narrow approach can stifle the potential for true inclusivity and innovation, as it prioritizes visible diversity over the diversity of ideas and viewpoints that can drive collective growth and understanding.
Expanding the definition of diversity to include diverse thought and perspective is crucial. Encouraging environments where a multitude of voices, including those that may dissent from the majority, are heard and valued fosters a more vibrant, dynamic community. This approach not only enriches discussions but also contributes to a more inclusive culture that celebrates differences as a source of strength and creativity.

 

Sin #3: DEI Can Be Intolerant (Ironically)

Intolerance, the third sin, refers to the tendency within some DEI efforts to suppress dissenting opinions or critique, often under the guise of promoting inclusivity. This can create environments where individuals feel unable to express differing viewpoints for fear of being labeled as bigoted or out of touch, which ironically undermines the very diversity and openness DEI initiatives aim to promote.
Creating spaces where differing opinions are welcomed and valued is essential for combating intolerance. This means fostering an atmosphere of open dialogue and mutual respect, where all members feel safe to share their perspectives. Such environments not only enhance understanding and empathy but also drive innovation and problem-solving by leveraging the full range of human experiences and insights.

 

Sin #4: Overemphasis on Oppression and Power

The fourth sin involves an overemphasis on oppression and power dynamics to the exclusion of other factors that influence human relationships and societal structures. While recognizing the reality of oppression is crucial, an exclusive focus on these elements can lead to a worldview that sees interactions primarily through the lens of victimhood and power imbalances, potentially obscuring pathways to empowerment and collaboration.
Adopting a balanced perspective that acknowledges both systemic issues and individual agency is vital. Recognizing that people have the power to affect change, both within themselves and their communities, alongside understanding systemic barriers, offers a more holistic view of social change. This approach encourages solutions that empower individuals while addressing the structural inequities that limit opportunities.

 

Sin #5: Equality of Outcomes = Racist and Sexist Policies

The fifth sin critiques the goal of equality of outcomes, arguing that it can lead to policies that, while well-intentioned, inadvertently reinforce racial and sexist biases by imposing arbitrary quotas or standards that do not account for individual choice or circumstance. This approach risks valuing numerical representation over genuine equity and disregards the complexity of human aspirations and capabilities.
Shifting focus from equality of outcomes to providing equal opportunities for all is proposed as a remedy. Ensuring that every individual has access to the resources and support they need to achieve their potential creates a truly equitable environment. This approach respects individual choices and acknowledges that success can look different for each person, promoting a culture that values merit and diversity in its truest sense.

 

Sin #6: Tribal Identities

Tribalism, identified as the sixth sin, refers to the division of society into increasingly fragmented identity groups, each vying for recognition and power. This can exacerbate societal divisions and distract from shared goals and common humanity, leading to a polarized environment where solidarity and understanding are undermined by allegiance to narrow group identities.
Embracing a more holistic view of individuals, which considers a wide range of factors beyond race and gender, is the suggested solution. Acknowledging the full complexity of human beings fosters a more respectful and accurate perception of individual identity. This approach promotes unity and understanding, transcending tribal divisions to highlight shared values and common ground.

 
Click here for a comprehensive overview of qualities, traits, and types that shape our identity.
 

Sin #7: DEI Can Be Anti-Liberal

The final sin, anti-liberalism, criticizes the tendency of some DEI initiatives to suppress free expression and enforce conformity to specific ideologies. This approach contradicts liberal values of open debate, freedom of thought, and the importance of diverse viewpoints, potentially stifling dialogue and innovation.
Promoting a culture of open debate and the free exchange of ideas, where diverse viewpoints are not only tolerated but encouraged, is vital. Recognizing that robust discussions and the challenging of assumptions are foundational to progress, this solution advocates for a return to principles that value the diversity of thought as a cornerstone of a truly inclusive society.

 
Click here for examples of anti-liberal DEI positions in all four quadrants.
 

Key Questions:

Here are some questions you can contemplate while listening to this discussion. We suggest you take some time to use these as journaling prompts.

  • Navigating Privilege with Insight: How can I discern which factors or traits are most relevant in evaluating privilege in my context, balancing universal principles with specific situational nuances?
  • Harmonizing Diversity with Unity: How can I integrate the value of diversity with the principle of unity in my understanding and actions, recognizing the strength in both diversity and unity?
  • Navigating Openness and Integrity: What criteria can I use to decide when to include or exclude a perspective, ensuring I maintain openness while safeguarding the integrity of discourse?
  • Empowering Balance: How can I recognize and balance the influences of personal agency and circumstantial factors in my life and in the lives of others?
  • Fostering Fairness: In what ways can I hold the values of equal opportunities and equal outcomes simultaneously, navigating the complexities of striving for fairness?d
  • Integrating Identities: How can I honor both my personal identity and my affiliations with group identities, without losing sight of either’s importance?
  • Cultivating Shared Realities: How can I foster environments where debate and consensus coexist, promoting both the exchange of diverse viewpoints and the pursuit of shared understanding?


Context Visualization: Toward an Integral Intersectionality

This project aims to create a comprehensive analysis capturing a wide array of factors influencing human experience and identity. This initiative seeks to elevate traditional DEI approaches by introducing the concept of a “Kosmic Address,” viewing each person as a unique constellation of various traits and qualities.

The concept of a Kosmic Address posits that every individual can be understood as a specific point in a vast, multidimensional space, located by their unique combination of traits and qualities across multiple spectrums. This includes factors like physical traits, psychological development, personality types, sex and gender identities, multiple intelligences, life conditions, and more. It’s akin to a complex, dynamic coordinate system that pinpoints the exact ‘location’ of an individual in the Kosmos of human experiences.

Enhanced Intersectionality
Incorporating the notion of a Kosmic Address leads to a more powerful and inclusive understanding of intersectionality. It recognizes that individuals are not just a sum of separate attributes like race, gender, or class, but are instead complex amalgamations of multiple, interwoven dimensions. This perspective allows for a deeper appreciation of the unique pathways and experiences of individuals, acknowledging that each person’s Kosmic Address is a singular combination that cannot be fully replicated.

Purpose
This tool is designed to facilitate a richer understanding of human diversity, enabling individuals and organizations to approach DEI with a more integral, holistic perspective.

Applications in DEI
This enhanced approach transcends traditional DEI models, promoting a more inclusive, comprehensive understanding of identity. It empowers the recognition and celebration of each individual’s unique Kosmic Address within the tapestry of human diversity.

Conclusion
The project aligns with the integral vision of recognizing the multidimensionality of human beings. By adopting the concept of Kosmic Address, it contributes to a more nuanced, empathetic, and effective way of engaging with diversity, equity, and inclusion, encouraging a deeper respect for the vast spectrum of human experience.

In our comprehensive exploration of human identity and experience through the concept of a “Kosmic Address,” it’s vital to recognize that the myriad typological factors we’ve outlined play a significant role in shaping individual life paths and choices. This multifaceted approach helps in understanding why certain groups may be underrepresented or overrepresented in specific fields or vocations.

While recognizing the potential impact of systemic barriers and oppression, it’s equally important to consider that a range of typological factors, including physical, psychological, developmental, and cultural types, among others, significantly influence individual predispositions and choices. For instance, the underrepresentation of a particular racial group in long-distance running records or the prevalence of one gender in certain professions can often be attributed to a constellation of these typological factors, rather than solely to systemic oppression.

This nuanced understanding aids in evaluating the concept of “equal outcomes” as a measure of “equal opportunities.” Equal outcomes can indeed serve as a useful barometer for assessing the existence of equal opportunities across groups, but this assessment requires a careful consideration of the various typological factors at play. Factors such as inherent physical abilities, cultural influences, personal interests, and psychological predispositions must be factored in to gain a more accurate and holistic understanding of representation in various domains.

Such an approach acknowledges that while striving for equality of opportunity is essential, expecting uniformity in outcomes without accounting for the diversity of human typology may overlook the rich tapestry of individual differences and choices. It emphasizes that equal opportunity should lead to the empowerment of individuals to pursue paths aligned with their unique constellation of traits and preferences, rather than enforcing a uniform distribution across all fields and vocations.

In conclusion, the project’s integral vision, which recognizes the multidimensionality of human beings and their diverse “Kosmic Addresses,” contributes to a more nuanced, empathetic, and effective way of engaging with diversity, equity, and inclusion. This approach encourages a deeper respect for the vast spectrum of human experience, understanding that diversity in outcomes is a natural reflection of the complex interplay of various typological factors shaping each individual’s unique journey.




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Keith Martin-Smith is an award-winning author, writing coach, and Zen priest. He is passionate about human connection, creativity, and evolution. His books include "The Mysterious Divination of Tea Leaves", "A Heart Blown Open", and "The Heart of Zen". His most recent book is his first novel, "Only Everything", a novel that explores the promise and the pain of following an artist's path.